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Wednesday
Apr132011

Fed's Disable Cyber-Crime Computer Network that Stole Millions 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI and the Justice Department say they have disabled a "botnet" of more than two million computers infected with malicious code that Eastern European cyber criminals may have used to drain millions of dollars from bank accounts around the world.

The victims include a Tennessee defense contractor that had $241,000 stolen from a bank account, a Michigan real estate company that lost more than $115,000, a South Carolina law firm that had $78,000 taken from accounts and a North Carolina investment firm that lost $151,000 from fraudulent wire transfers, according to court documents.

U.S. authorities continue to combat the network of remotely controlled computers called the "Coreflood" botnet, which has secretly recorded computer users' keystrokes to compromise vast amounts of banking and financial data. Botnets are armies of so-called "zombie" computers, often ordinary people's machines, that have been hijacked by hackers and ordered to vacuum up private information from bank accounts, credit card data, email services and social media sites.

Coreflood is believed to have been operating since 2002 and has resulted in an unknown number of U.S. bank accounts being broken into with losses that could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to FBI officials.

The Justice Department and FBI filed a civil complaint against 13 "John Doe" defendants, charging them with wire fraud, bank fraud and illegal interception of electronic communications. Investigators will seek to identify the "John Does" as the investigation continues.

The FBI and Justice Department also have executed search warrants to seize Internet domain names believed tied to be the control servers for the Coreflood program.

The botnet has stolen vast amounts of funds from bank accounts in the United States, FBI officials said, and could have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide.

Investigators received a temporary restraining order from the district court allowing them to seize control of the infected computer servers to try to further dismantle and disable the Coreflood botnet. According to Justice Department officials, the server that will seek to counter Coreflood will be run by the Internet Systems Consortium, a non-profit group that works on Internet infrastructure and security issues.

FBI officials say that Coreflood program still will be present on victims' computers, but those victims can take action to remove the malicious software through proper security measures.

In a press release Wednesday, DOJ noted, "The public may go to the following sites operated by U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) and the Federal Trade Commission, respectively: us-cert.gov/nav/nt01 and onguardonline.gov/topics/malware.aspx."

Microsoft also has developed malicious software removal tools to remove botnets including Coreflood.

Although FBI officials declined to say where the Coreflood botnet originated, previous media reports and cyber-security experts have traced it to cyber criminal gangs in Russia. Researchers at Dell SecureWorks claim they were the first to trace Coreflood to a computer crime ring from Russia. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gordon Snow, the assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, spelled out how Russia and Eastern Europe were a hotbed of computer crime.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

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